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Anti-racism protests reignite debate over changing SFU’s athletic team name

SFU review Clan athletics team nickname
WATCH: SFU review Clan athletics team nickname

The debate over Simon Fraser University’s athletic team name has reignited, amid ongoing anti-racism protests in Canada and the United States.

SFU’s teams are commonly dubbed “The Clan,” a reference to the region’s Scottish heritage.

But an SFU philosophy professor says that name is frequently mistaken for the Ku Klux Klan — a mistake that puts players at risk when competing in the United States.

READ MORE: SFU prof says ‘Clan’ team name should change, puts student athletes at risk

Holly Andersen says there is nothing wrong with celebrating Scottish history, but that it’s important for Canadians to understand the different context.

“The name we play under is shared with a white supremacist organization in the United States that is very active and that freely and openly marches,” said Andersen.

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Petition against the name of SFU’s sports teams
Petition against the name of SFU’s sports teams

“Our student athletes who play under this team name in the United States undergo racist taunts and racist harassment. They have other student athletes who try and pick fights with them because of the disrespectful nature of the name as it’s perceived in the United States.”

Simon Fraser University is the only Canadian team in the American NCAA’s Division II, meaning its athletes frequently travel to the U.S. to compete.

The debate over the name is not new. Andersen spearheaded a petition to have the name changed in 2017. That petition attracted about 400 signatures, and Andersen argued many at the time had interpreted it as being anti-Scottish.

A survey of student athletes last spring found 77 per cent in favour of changing the name.

READ MORE: Should the Cleveland Indians change their name? A history of protest over Chief Wahoo

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“I think the protests in the United States are really making it very clear that this is a time to really listen to what’s happening in the U.S. and listen to the players, and not let our own fond memories stand in the way of actually making actions that support them instead of just words that support them.”

Simon Fraser University issued a statement saying it is aware that people in the U.S. have mistakenly made associations between the Clan and the Klan.

“The university is deeply troubled by and attentive to the emotions and concerns to which these associations have given rise, particularly in light of our revulsion to and condemnation of anti-Black racism,” reads the statement.

“A review process has been underway for several months within the university to provide the basis for a decision on this difficult issue.”

Andersen has previously suggested names such as The Tartans to retain Simon Fraser’s Scottish heritage without being inflammatory to U.S. schools.